LUMBERTON, N.C. (WBTW) — Faculty members at Tanglewood Elementary School in Lumberton said they hope to make classrooms safe for both students and teachers as public schools in Robeson County begin fall classes on Monday.

While most COVID-19 protocols will carry over from last year, the one notable exception is virtual education, which will only be available to students who are required to quarantine because of COVID-19.

“I would be nervous anyway just because it’s a new position, new role, but extra nervous on top of that trying to follow the COVID protocols and keep everyone safe,” said Joyce Brown, who is starting her first year as principal at Tanglewood Elementary said.

Brown said she and her teachers are taking COVID-19 protocols seriously because their students are too young to get vaccinated.

“I’ve stressed to the teachers we have to be that role model,” she said. “We have to model the behavior that we want the kids to have. “They have to see us wearing our masks appropriately in order to model it for them.”

First-grade teacher William Johnston agreed. “We’ll model for them how we expect them to get in line to go to the bathroom, to sanitize their desks, to use only their materials.”

He placed cubbies between the desks in his classroom to encourage distancing.

“I’m excited about being back in the classroom with the students, but at the same time I’m apprehensive,” he said. “I just want to make sure that I’m doing everything I can as a classroom teacher to keep my students safe.”

Other protocols include seating charts to aid with contact tracing, cones to divided the direction of travel in hallways, and plexiglass barriers at every desk.

“It’s been a year since the students have really been in class as a whole, so the teachers are excited to have the students back,” Brown said. “When you can truly see the learning process take place, it fulfills you,” Johnston said. “You know that you are fulfilling your purpose and you’re here for a reason.”